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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wrestling

I've been thinking about this thing called Christianity.  Three things have intertwined and largely defined my experience and understanding of Christianity up to this point in my life.  First, it has been about learning to live well- to develop a moral life, a culture of worshiping God, the fruits and gifts of the Spirit, etc.  Secondly, my paradigm has included the idea that if I lived in a way that is pleasing to God (worked hard on number one), trusted in Jesus, and prayed scripture over my family, then I would walk in protection, prosperity, and blessing.  While this has been my experience most of my life, it is clear now that it is not a guarantee.  Be thankful if it happens, but you can't bank on it.  After all we are promised suffering, and most Christians in the rest of the world experience it daily.  Finally, I have experienced God's love.  I have literally felt it many times.  Although I know "He has not left me or forsaken me," I do not feel His love now.  I feel loved by so many of you, but not by God.

Now, my heart has been ripped apart, my precious daughter has been snatched from my arms, and it seems the Christianity that I knew is broken.   My paradigm has been shattered.  These defining elements have fled away, and I am left with the bare bones of what I believe.  Then it dawns on me that none of what I have experienced up until this point in my life is what Christianity is really about.  It is not about lives that are safe, protected, blessed and prosperous.  We can take these perks and and claim they are promises and even rights here in our comfortable western lifestyle, and we can ignore that these scriptures are all tempered with other promises of pain, persecution, and trouble while we are still here in this world.  But, ultimately, the gospel is not about these things.

It is about Death.   Jesus did not come to bring the beatitudes.  He came to deal with the problem of death.  This thing that seems to have left me broken is the very thing that all my belief has circled around and built towards my whole life.  When the horrible things come, we want to say that Christianity is not real.  It doesn't work.  I want to say that it does not work.  But the whole reason Jesus came is because of the horrible things.  If they were not here, he would not have needed to come.  I cannot throw it out now that my paradigm seems destroyed... now that I am staring in the very face of what it is about- Death.  The real deal.

Death is a partner we all must dance with.  He takes a number on our card... a number we can't know.  We laugh and swirl and enjoy the ball until THE song comes, and our unwelcome partner steps up for his dance.  There is no avoiding him.  Not one of us will escape, but Christianity is for what comes next.  Though death will waltz us right out of the ballroom, his song is short and his grasp will slip if our trust is in Jesus.  Jesus will cut in, and we will be whisked away.  Death cannot keep us from the real dance that begins with the Prince of Peace in the ultimate ballroom before the throne of the King of Kings.  This dance has no end- no tears- no unwelcome partners.

No, I cannot throw out Christianity as I stand toe to toe with Death.  It is about Death.  It is about Life.  Eternal Life.  It is about a life with continuity between earth and heaven because my heart is already there.   My Makiah is there.   My future and my hope are there.   The real dance with the Prince is there.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Maybe Then

The minute hands on the big white clock seem to drag by.  Outside the scurrying of nurses and metal carts and nervous parents pass in the hall.  The flourecent lights shine from underneath the door cracks almost mocking the dim atmosphere inside the room.   

Earlier, I had felt strange and finally agreed to a quick doctor checkup.  An hour later I was being admitted to the hospital with contractions that were 3 minutes apart, significant dilation, and two 31 week old babies who were not ready to meet the world.  Now, after IV's of medicine and steroid shots and other injections, the contractions were slowing, my mind was fogging, and the quiet had crept in while we waited.   As I lay in the hospital bed my thoughts turned to her. 

I could almost see her nestling under the crisp white sheets with me and saying sweetly "Oh, Mama!"  Maybe then we would have talked about the babies and how tiny they would be.  I would have told her stories of when she was in my belly and how much I loved her even then... as I do these two.   She would have kissed my belly twice- once for each sister- and given each a delicate hug through the skin with her little princess hands like she did every day.  Then she would have said, just like she always did, "You are sooo loved little babies!"  And she would have cooed that they were "precious" and "cute" and "sweet" just like the day she did when we went to my ultrasound together.  And maybe she would have told them that she wanted brothers and sisters more then anything in the whole world and that she had prayed for them every night since she was two.

Maybe then I would have smiled... and then maybe even laughed as I thought about her babysitting concerns.  Not too long ago she had come into the living room and said with utter seriousness, "I been finkin, Mama.  When you and Daddy go on a date and I babysit the babies, I fink I'm gonna need some help."    I had sealed the laughter behind my lips then and agreed that maybe we should get at least two teenagers to help.  She had seemed so relieved!

Maybe then she would have gone home to our house to stay with her grandparents while we wait for the verdict that only time can give.  Maybe the medicine is closing in on my thoughts.  I can almost see her there beside me, and I smile.  I really, truly smile... those special mommy daughter moments that I can almost have when it is really late and my imagination is working and the IV is pumping and the nurses are scurrying outside and the room is dimly lit inside.

And maybe then we...

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Daddy's Grief

He painted such a vivid picture for me with his words.  He said it is like being stuck in an elevator with no electricity.  The dark is deep and complete.  The water of grief is pouring in from the top.  At first he thought he could find the buttons and get the elevator to open... to escape the torrent.  But the buttons don't work, and in the dark the pummeling water is rushing down on his face and head.  The elevator is almost full now.  The last of the air is disappearing rapidly.  Blackness.  Trapped.  Drowning.  Grief.

A friend of mine who lost a child shared with me that in the midst of her agony she felt Jesus was asking her a question.  As He had asked the disciples in John 6, she heard Him in her heart saying, "You do not want to leave me, too, do you?"  And she said all she could respond was like Peter, "Lord. to whom else shall I go?  You have the words of eternal life.  I believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." 

To whom else shall we go?

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,"  even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.  Psalm 139: 7-12

The depths.  The sea of grief.  The darkness.   

To whom else shall we go?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not as They Should Be

Buster buries his head deeper into his black and white fur and cat bed- trying to avoid the shrieking sobs.  I can no longer avoid them.  I sit in her floor flanked by her tiny, pink princess bed and the little kitchen and store where she loved to play and hideout.  Armed with plastic tubs and ziplock bags, the dreadful day to clean up some of her things has come.  I cannot put it off forever.  Her decor and dollhouse and shelves with precious things will stay, but it cannot all remain untouched forever.  How do I choose the precious things?

I group Snow White and the dwarves together... then Aladdin and his friends.  I pick up a pink, flowery bucket and start to remove the plastic food.  Then a sweet memory leaps on me.  I was laying on the couch on bed rest, and she brought me the bucket.  One item at a time she asked, "Mommy, do you like (onions, oranges, etc.) in your soup?"  She carefully added each ingredient to the bucket as she eagerly prepared my special meal.  She giggled with delight when I pretended to gobble it all up.  My last bucket of "soup."  Here it is just like she prepared it.  The camera flashes and so does the despair within me.  No amount of tears or sobs or screaming questions can change this.  But I try.  The heavens remain seemingly silent- impervious to my cries.  Still the toys are waiting all around me so with sagging shoulders I trudge on.

I open the purple doors of her kitchen set, and my eyes become swelling pools again.  There inside are the tiny twin baby dolls.   They were mine when I was a child, and since the day we found out I was pregnant with twins,  Makiah had made them her permanent companions, even tucking them into bed with her each night.  She took them to school one day for show and tell (in her "me bag") so she could talk about the two babies in Mommy's tummy and how excited she was to be a big sister.  I thought we had lost the precious dolls in the wreck.   I hadn't been able to find them.  But here they are.  She had gingerly laid them side by side to nap safely in their little hiding place until she returned home to find them.  I snap more pictures of her hope incarnate... trying to capture a physical reminder of the love she already had for her sisters- so intangible.  She  is now so intangible.

The babies have hardly moved today.  I think I have terrified them with the cries.  Mostly they are accustomed to silence... not the sweet chattering that they were meant to hear.  Although when I am watching videos of her, they sometimes seem to kick and come alive at the sound of her voice.  Her voice on tape.  Her toys in bags.  Her sisters in silence.  Things are not as they should be.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Consequences

Three months ago today, they began for us.

Cameron woke up and looked at the clock- 7:15.  "Oh no, we'll be late to school!" he thought... and then he remembered.  We went to a movie, and as the credits rolled across the dark screen, I reached for my cell phone to call the babysitter and check in... and then I remembered.  Her cat, Buster,  was curled up lazily by the back door.  He is rarely allowed in and knows his place on the floor when he is.  From the sofa, I played a clip of her talking on my laptop, and Buster bolted across the room and leapt on the couch looking for her.

There are a million of these moments.  Moments when time stands still, our breath disappears, and reality pounces on us with stabs of merciless pain.  Even when we have temporarily distracted ourselves, the uninvited moments intrude.  They bombard us at the most unexpected times. 

There may be consequences for the individual(s) responsible, but most of the consequences of their choices are for us- strangers.  We do not live in a bubble.  Who will your decisions affect today, next week, next year, for the rest of their lives?  Our society has created a false illusion for our youth- that there is a period between childhood and adulthood when your choices have no consequences.  We excuse away their behavior and say they are "only having fun."  We tell them they can have freedom without responsibility... unlimited fun without accountability.  This false sense of indestructibility and power without an expectation to function like the rest of us is so appealing that many continue to live in it through their 20's and 30's.  

We have lied to them and done them a disservice.  While other cultures have an early coming of age and expect their youth to contribute responsibly to society and abide by its rules, we have given ours permission to make decisions that destroy their lives and those of others.  Meanwhile we close our eyes, pat them on the back, and tell them to have fun while they are 'teens.'

Is it fun to have an STD and maybe later ensuing infertility?  Is it fun to flunk out of school and depend on your parents for livelihood?  Is it fun to have a baby alone?  Is it cool to have recreational fun... I mean, to develop addictions and dysfuntional behavior that will scar your future family and relationships?  Is it fun to wake up and know you have killed someone's only child???  But maybe they patted this teen on the back, gave them another car, and said it's ok... you're just a teenager.

Maybe not.

What I know for sure is that no one can pat us on the back and make it better.  A part of us will be broken and missing as long as we have breath on this earth.  We will always wonder what she should be doing now- performing in her Tinkerbell ballet, graduating from preschool, high school, or college, planning her wedding, having her babies...  She wanted her hair to be long for her wedding and her dress to come "all the way down to the bottom."  She always said she was going to marry Daddy until recently when her best friend proposed to her on the playground.  "I said I will marry him because I love him," she confided to her grandmother.  She drew a picture of her birthday party and told her teacher she wanted a pool party for her 5th birthday.

Do we continue to strive to choose forgiveness?  Yes.  Does that mean no consequences?  No. Consequences?  There will be no more birthdays, no more ballet, and no wedding for our precious daughter.  There is no end for us here.  No resolution.  The moments will continue to find us- the strangers- but she will not.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Vapor

The dirt still looks freshly dug.  The grass stubbornly refuses to grow.  How do you decide what to put on your baby's headstone?  We got a letter from the city, and we have to do this... have to get over this hump.  How do you pen the final parting words?  precious-princess-my heart-sweet-beautiful-our love-gift-treasure- priceless-joy-dream-forever...  How do you sum up a life?  How do you say goodbye?  How can her sweet, cuddly body be down there?  I just want this to be someone else...some other mother and some other child!  I want to read this blog and weep for her- that other woman.    I don't want to be on this side of the screen typing these horrible words!

I just want to feel close to her again.  Oh God, she feels so far away!  How can you think that I can do this?  I am desperate to be near her... to touch her.  I watch her pictures on the screen saver.  I reach out to rub her cheek and stroke her hair, but the pictures disappear... just like my baby.  A vapor that I cannot grasp.

"Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."  James 4:14